After “tough” back room negotiations, (I don’t think the rooms are smoke-filled any more), a budget deal has emerged from the U.S. House of Representatives. Coming close to the brink of the tabooed “government shutdown,” Republicans were able to pack $38.5 billion in cuts to the budget which funds the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. But was it enough? Did they do what they said they would do?

Of course, Democrats wanted no cuts at all. Every time the word “cut” was mentioned, the sound of gnashing teeth could be heard from coast to coast. On the flip side, in the GOP’s Pledge with America, the promise was to “roll back government spending” which would “save us at least $100 billion in the first year alone.” Hmmmm…. I don’t think $38.5 billion is the same as $100 billion, do you?

There has been a host of analysis to come out in the last day or two, and much of it attempts to paint a rosy picture of GOP efforts. Rich Lowery over at National Review goes pragmatic with his analysis, saying:

If you thought cutting a few tens of billions more in spending this fiscal year would make a major difference in the country’s future, and/or thought a shutdown would be a political winner for Republicans, you have to be disappointed that Boehner didn’t push it further. Since I believed neither of those things to be true, I had low expectations.

I saw the whole confrontation through the prism of two major downside risks: 1) a shutdown that could go awry politically and badly hurt Republicans three months into their House majority; 2) a poisonous split in the caucus that would make it impossible for House Republicans to fight cohesively on the big items to come. Boehner has apparently avoided both of those outcomes while pushing Democrats from $0 billion to $38.5 billion on the top-line number on cuts.

So, does that mean it’s a victory because the GOP caucus didn’t fracture in two? Is that a strategy now? Shoot for lower expectations, because pushing for something meaningful means that moderates in your caucus will get angry?

Lowry already moves his focus to the debate over the debt ceiling which “offers the possibility for imposing much more consequential, far-reaching restraints on spending.” So tell, me… in that phrase that I just put in quotes, what’s the most significant word? Consequential? No. Far-reaching? No. The answer is: possibility. Ugh! They always talk about the possibility of this or that, but if actions are never taken, if battles are never fought, then the possibility will never become reality.

Andrew Stiles writes that Boehner won big in the budget battle:

Republicans should feel plenty confident heading into the upcoming debates over the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget, Paul Ryan’s daring proposal to cut the deficit by $6 trillion. This deal, thanks to Boehner’s robust leadership, was a good start — much less for the size of the spending cuts it yielded than for the political dynamic it revealed. They will need all the political capitol they can muster going forward, because it’s only the beginning.

Again, the “victory” seems to be that down the line, we will get something for our efforts. The fact that this was a budget cutting battle and we didn’t get much in the terms of cuts should not be important, at least according to Stiles. Interesting.

Here’s Rep. Paul Ryan’s weekly address on the budget matter. He focuses less on the deal that was just done — which please note is a deal to complete the 2011 budget — and more on the proposal for the full 2012 budget. Ryan has big plans, but can they pull it off?

Not every legislator has jumped on the bandwagon that what happened this weekend is a victory for the GOP. The $100 billion target was almost immediately cast aside, but for at least several months, conservatives were targeting a number closer to $60 billion budget cuts. Now, the deals ends with $38.5 billion, and some like Rep. Mike Pence don’t think it’s good policy. As noted in a story on Fox News, Pence said, “I think John Boehner got a good deal, but it’s probably not good enough for me to support it.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, voted against the bridge bill and said he could not back the final budget deal either.

“I can’t support this,” Chaffetz told Fox Business Network shortly after the deal was announced. “We have a multitrillion-dollar problem here. And I feel disappointed we came up a little bit short.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., also voted against the bridge bill, saying members of Congress have “been asked to settle for $39 billion in cuts, even as we continue to fund Planned Parenthood and the implementation of ObamaCare.”

Officially, what was passed on Friday was the “bridge bill,” legislation to keep the government going one more week. The next vote will actually be on the budget deal that comes with the $38.5 billion in cuts. That’s the vote to watch as far as what conservative legislators will do.

Perhaps Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget is the real battle to fight. Perhaps the debate over the debt ceiling is the real battle to fight. I just don’t know any more. What I do know is it seems that for years, we’ve been told that the NEXT battle is the one that really matters, so it’s ok to compromise a little bit now. How many times are we going to hear that before we actually do fight?

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